Save Energy

It was impossible to get it right, Kate thought. She was trying to draw a hand. She had been advised by her art teacher to draw hands separately from the rest of the body. ‘Practise drawing lots and lots of hands, precisely because they are so difficult to draw,’ he said.

Kate was eleven, but her teacher thought she was talented enough to be pushed well beyond the usual limits of her age. Her parents were happy to hear that. Kate wasn’t so sure, especially that evening, seeing the difficulty she was having with her fifth hand.

‘Katie!’ her father called from the kitchen. ‘Beddy-byes!

Kate, not Katie, how many times! The girl wanted to shout, but she couldn’t be bothered; nothing could penetrate her parents’ thick skulls and, anyway, she was tired: it was time for beddy… Jeez, beddy-byes? Really? How old did her father think she was? Three? And the next day he would complain: ‘Kate, stop behaving like a three-year-old.’ If only her parents would make up their minds about what age they wanted her to be. To hell with the hand. And to hell with brushing her teeth: she was too tired.

‘Don’t forget to brush your teeth!’ Papa shouted from the kitchen. ‘You had sweets today, remember? You can’t forgo it today! And don’t forget to turn the wifi off on your phone!’

It would take too much energy to get up from her bed where she was sitting propped against the wall, walk all the way to the bathroom across the corridor and brush her teeth, all of them, then rinse them. No way she could do that. She didn’t even have the energy to watch a short video on her phone. Thank God she had changed into her pyjamas the moment she got home from sodding school. She put her phone on airplane mode and slid onto a lying position. She fell asleep saying to herself: Oh no, where are you blankety-blank blanket? I need you… And I left Brownie Bear sprawled on the floor… I’m not doing very well today…

*  *  *

She was watching a program on the TV with her mother while her father stayed in his bedroom/study/office working and her brother Edmond stayed in his bedroom doing teenage things. Five minutes into the program, mama had to go and make dinner and Kate was left to watch the rest of it on her own. It often happened. Sometimes it happened the other way around because Kate would rather go into her room and watch videos of her favourite youtubers or check on her Instagram account.

This program had managed the monumental feat of catching Kate’s attention, although initially it wouldn’t have been her first choice. It was part of a series about how things are made. All kinds of things: aluminium foil, violins, toothpicks, helicopters, bubblegum… This one was about trucks. About one particular truck, in fact. However, it wasn’t about how it was made but how it was fixed, as it happens, in Italy. It was only a five-minute program and yet half way through it there was a four-minute break for commercials. 

She didn’t need to go to the toilet, she had her glass bottle of cold water with her, and she knew mama wouldn’t let her eat anything before dinner, so she stayed put, gazing longingly at the moving pictures of, first, ‘American-style cookies’, then, chocolate spread —part of a healthy, balanced breakfast, the voice in the advert swore. Sure, Kate thought. It wasn’t fair: two of her most favourite things on the TV, while she was starving. Knowing her mother, they were going to have vegetable soup for dinner or something else made with vegetables, like vegetable curry or vegetable couscous or vegetable pie… Kate shivered and turned the sound of the TV off; she hated the false voices in the adverts and the stupid music accompanying them. How could anybody believe anything these people said? She didn’t need her parents banging on about it: anybody with a bit of brain could see that they were lying through their teeth. Part of a healthy, balanced breakfast? Are you kidding me? Delicious, yes, but everybody knows tons of sugar are bad for you, duh, and this choc spread had like A TON of the stuff. Guys, don’t worry, I’ll enjoy it grossly on my Sunday pancakes, but don’t lie to me, I’m not stupid. 

She yawned, reminding herself that she had to eat less sweeties. The yawn settled into a self-deprecating grin. The moving advertisements on the screen caught her eye again: a man was leaving the fridge door open while he pottered around in the kitchen, then the image changed to huge pieces of ice coming apart from an icy land, plunging into ocean water. Kate knew what that image meant: the ice melting in the polar ice caps. Her Biology & Geology teacher had told her and her classmates, partners in misfortune, about this aspect of his favourite disaster topic among many: the greenhouse effect/global warming topic. 

The image shifted again to the previous one of the guy shuffling around the kitchen, his fridge door still wide open. Then, one more time the picture of the ice melting into the warmed-up water. Kate got it: the two concepts were linked. You leave your fridge open, you melt the ice in the North Pole and probably the South Pole, too. Jeeezz, what a huge responsibility. If the guy knew he was fucking up the planet like that he would feel like a total twat. Then Kate remembered that it was just an advert, a TV commercial. What was it selling though? It didn’t seem to be trying to get you to buy anything. Did this mean for once they were telling the truth? Who made the advert? She missed the name at the end.

A couple of car adverts later, the truck being fixed in Italy came back into the screen. They would have to hurry up, Kate thought. They only had 2.5 minutes left to finish the job. She hoped no more commercials would get in the way. It turned out these Italians needed to replace one more piece in the truck. This one piece, however, wasn’t made in Italy or anywhere else in the European Union, or the rest of Europe, but in California, USA. So, the Italian mechanics had to wait until the Californian manufacturers sent the tiny piece to be set inside the gigantic truck like a precious gem. 

The image of the ice plummeting into the vast water came back into Kate’s mind. She didn’t know why. It just did. She wondered, while she waited along with the Italian mechanics for the piece to arrive, if from now on she would associate big trucks with melting ice. One summer afternoon, a long time ago, she had watched a movie on TV about astronauts in outer space right after she had burnt her right hand doing an experiment in her room, and since then every time she saw the image of an astronaut she remembered the pain in her hand, the bandage, the smell. 

She then asked herself if this Italian super-repair shop had Amazon Prime. It would be good if they got free shipping for this piece, especially since it actually came on a ship. The narrator in the program explained that this piece was being transported by a massive freighter full of containers packed with stuff ordered from the EU. Duh, Kate said out loud, they didn’t expect the transatlantic cargo ship to come all the way from California, USA, carrying only this one piece. She laughed at the idea. She saw the chunks of ice melting again in her mind’s eye. 

‘Are you all right, Kate?’ Her father asked from the bowels of the next room.

‘Yes, papa, I’m just laughing! Why wouldn’t I be all right?’ Kate shouted back at him. He could be so annoying.

‘Mama!’ she shouted towards the kitchen at the end of the corridor. ‘Is dinner going to be long?’ She actually meant to say: ‘Is the fridge door shut?’ But she was hungry.

‘No!’ was her mother’s curt answer. She didn’t like being pressurized. Understandably, she had a lot to do and everybody kept asking her to do things. Kate felt a pang of guilt; and there she was, sprawled on the settee, watching telly. She reminded herself she had to help her mama more often. She felt sad and defeated. 

When the piece finally arrived at the Italian port, the truck was made like new in a matter of seconds and the program was suddenly over. As Kate stared at the credits rushing passed the screen so that nobody could read them, an idea began to take shape in her mind: Wasn’t this coming and going of a million things, big and small, from one end of the planet to the other, on planes and ships and trucks, a huge waste of energy? Wasn’t all that long distance transportation melting the ice caps more rapidly than idiot adults leaving their fridge doors open? 

*  *  *

Her friend next door, Lisa, came to visit after lunch the next day; a Thursday. Kate heard her mother saying ‘hello’ to her in her happy voice, followed by a ‘she’s in her room.’ Kate knew what her mother was thinking right then: With a bit of luck Lisa will convince Kate to go out of her room and out in the world, and she’ll stop watching videos on her phone and making videos on her computer for a while. Kate huffed. She loved Lisa, and she did need some air and sunlight, but she was in the middle of an important search. Tired of hearing about pollution and the end of life on Earth, she was trying to gather information on global warming to see if there was something she could do about it. Perhaps not now, but in the future, if there was still one when she got there. When Lisa knocked on her door, startling Mr Red, the cat, lying on her bed, Kate was staring at a mathematical equation she had come across inside a lengthy and mostly incomprehensible article titled Impact of Globalization on Energy Consumption:

ECt =α+ φEC + ωG + λGDP + θK t

She hated Maths because she couldn’t understand it and as a consequence feared it greatly. Maths can be fun, she was told. Yeah right, do them yourself then, they’re no good to me and I’m sure they’re not going to be useful in my life; a calculator with long-life batteries would suffice. She was sure, too, that Mathematics weren’t going to provide the answer or the solution, no matter how mathematically correct the results of that strange equation were, to global warming or any other problem on the planet.

‘Come in!’ she said to Lisa.

Her friend cracked the door open, slid in and quickly shut it again.

‘Are you coming out?’ She asked with a tentative smile. She had been turned down quite a few times by this increasingly strange girl.

Kate’s eyes went back to the computer screen. She read in silence:

The expansion of globalization is usually associated with an expanded use of energy due to the established empirical connection between economic growth and energy demand. 

‘Ok,’ Kate conceded. ‘Let’s go out.’

‘To our secret place,’ Lisa demanded.

‘Ok, to our secret place.’

Before she left her room Kate wrote down the word globalization on one of the myriad of paper scraps lining her desk. She had to look that one up later. Interesting word. She had the feeling she had heard it before. What could it mean? Turning into a globe… No. It had to do with global, as in global warming; that’s why it was mentioned in that article. Perhaps it was another way of saying global warming. Or it could be a particular form of civili-zation. Global civilization? Her head was starting to hurt; some oxygen, while there was still some left, and a little exercise would do her good. 

First they had to go to the bins to throw away two bags of rubbish. Kate didn’t know why her mama was doing this to her; she had never asked her to throw the rubbish out before. Well, she had but not in a serious way. More like, ‘on Sundays you have to throw the rubbish out,’ and she would have said it on a Monday and it be forgotten by Sunday. Today, of all days, when she was going out with a friend, mama meant it. I need you guys to help me a bit, I’m running out of energy, she had stated with her no-bullshit look. Ok, yes, yes, she had to help her mother more. Never mind. 

The two girls went to the bins along the back street. When they got there Kate couldn’t remember which bag went where. Her mama had told her but she hadn’t been listening. Not because she didn’t want to know but because she thought she already knew. After all, she had gone to the bins with mama on their way into town plenty of times. In fact, every time someone went out of the house there were rubbish bags ready to be taken to the bins, especially one filled with plastic bottles and cartons. Nearly a bag of the stuff a day. When I was a kid, we had one sole container where we threw everything together, Kate recalled her mother saying. But it was only one bag a week or so.

‘This one seems to have plastic in it,’ Lisa offered, pointing to the fuller yet lighter bag.

‘Oh yes, this one goes in the yellow bin: cartons, plastic bottles and plastic containers.’

‘Yeah,’ Lisa encouraged. ‘The other bag is not paper or glass so it must be organic.’

Kate lifted the heavier bag by the handles and tried to peer through it.

‘Hmmm,’ she pondered. ‘It looks like there’s other stuff in there.’

‘Yeah, yeah, but it’s mainly organic,’ Lisa assured her squinting to see inside the bag.

‘But,’ Kate objected, dropping the bag on the ground again. ‘It can’t be mainly organic, it has to be like totally organic: this stuff is dumped onto the countryside, you know….. er…, the environment.’

‘It does?’

‘Yes it does.’

‘So that’s why my mother is always saying that recycling is fake, you know, like fake news.’

‘Really?!’ Kate shouted. ‘You gotta be kidding me! Recycling, too?!’

They watched the remaining bag for a moment as if the bag itself could tell them what to do. It makes sense, Kate thought. If paper went in the blue bin, glass in the green, and plastic bottles and cartons in the yellow, EVERYTHING ELSE had to go in the green, the one that was supposed to be strictly reserved for the organic — the food remains, the dead leaves from the garden… What else could she do? There wasn’t another bin with yet another colour. It didn’t make any sense, though, to put plastic wrapping, sanitary pads and all the thousand and one little plastic and metal things one tossed away in life in the same bin with the compost. No sense at all. 

In a fit of rage and frustration, Kate grabbed the second bag and hurdled it into the green bin, the organic bin, without further consideration. She was tired of fake news. She was tired of feeling confused. She was sick and tired of bad news.

‘Maybe there should be a black bin for fake and bad news,’ she said to her friend. Then she reconsidered:

‘No, that’s racist. Purple… A purple bin for rubbish news to be recycled into good real news.’

‘Come on,’ Lisa urged. ‘Let’s have a good time before we’re nuked!’

They started walking away from the bins. Kate gave a long and noisy sigh, then proclaimed:

‘We were happier when we were little and didn’t know shit.’

She broke into a run and Lisa followed her. They screamed all the way to the end of the street.

*  *  *

The positive environmental effects of globalization could be greater than the negative effects, the article said. That is good news, Kate thought. Just for that, she would read one more paragraph and then she would get into bed and watch a video or two, or three, on her phone.

As globalization worked its way over the globe, so will the world’s demand for energy. That will bring about serious environmental problems. OMG, Kate thought, did these scientists just contradict themselves? Why did adults do that all the time? No wonder the world was in such a mess. People didn’t know what to think, or how to think. And they say they want to educate children… Puhh. 

She had looked up globalization earlier and it had turned out to be more or less what she had thought: the global integration of international trade, investment, information technology and cultures. She only vaguely understood what integration and investment were, but she believed she caught the drift of the whole concept. Now she knew where she had heard about globalization and global trade: when her mother had helped her order things from AliExpress, she had mentioned those words and the fact that ‘none of this was possible when I was little’; she was lucky if she could get something from the store down the road. It made Kate feel guilty and proud at the same time. Her generation definitely knew a lot more about the world than her parents. They would find a way to fix it. They had to or they were all screwed.

Now we know, the article went on, that capital increases economic growth and economic growth leads to higher energy consumption. The bio-geo teacher had told them what economic growth was: the amount of stuff a country makes to sell to people in their country and other countries –  that is, export. Something like that. But ‘that capital’?… Which capital were they talking about? They were quite a few, only in Europe. 

‘Kitty-Katie-Kate!’ her father called from the other side of the door. ‘Time for bed.’

  Yes, she should stop now. She was too tired to think.

‘When are they coming to install the natural gas?’ she heard her brother asking from his room.

‘Next week!’ papa shouted.

Kate dreamed that night about the article she was reading. In her dream the bio-geo teacher was pointing to Oslo, capital of Norway on a digital map of Europe on the classroom wall. Kate was desperate to go to Norway, the country where one of her favourite youtubers came from. The map kept shuffling about as if it wanted to detach itself from the wall and fly out of the window. Only, the windows were closed and Kate worried for the map’s future. Would it crash against the windows and die?

The teacher faced the students and proclaimed: 

‘Natural gas consumption leads to exports and economic growth.’ Then he pointed to Kate with the digital pointer and said:


‘Therefore,’ mumbled Kate in her sleep. ‘Therefore, the capital of Oslo is Norway.’

‘No,’ said Lulu, a clever/asshole classmate. ‘Norway is the capital of Oslo.’

‘No, no, no,’ the teacher shook his head. ‘Therefore, exports and economic growth lead to a natural gas explosion.’ He made a circular gesture with his arms and shouted:

‘BOOM.’ He blew up in a myriad of colourful pixels. And the whole class went: ‘WOW.’

Kate wriggled in her sleep. Wow, yeah, she thought dreaming, we’re all gonna die. It’s all fake news. Fake news, she mumbled.

*  *  *

Next day was Friday, thank God, and after two in the afternoon it was the blessed weekend. Kate made plans to go out at about 4 pm with Lisa and Thomas, another neighbour/friend. She hoped she didn’t change her mind. She felt exhausted after the horrid school week and it was tempting to cocoon in her room, stretch out on her bed, do her own thing, talk to nobody, see nobody, be held to account for nothing.

But she didn’t change her mind and they walked all the way to the Chinese shop by the railway station to get some sweets. It was cloudy, but it didn’t rain.

The three of them went into the shop in a bundle and the Chinese woman kept her beady eye on them. After years of minding the shop she knew well about little children, little money, and sweets. Not a very good equation; it often turned out wrong. But Thomas, Lisa and Kate were not like that. They always had been good little children. Not so little anymore, but still good. They respected private property and paid what they owed with their parents’ hard-earned money.

‘Hey,’ Lisa warned Kate, pointing to another set of shelves full of boxes of sweets. ‘These over here.’

‘Why,’ Kate wanted to know.

‘Are you blind or stupid?’


‘They are CHEAPER.’

Kate considered this. Then she said:

‘If they’re cheaper it means I’ll consume more.’

Consume?’ Lisa looked at her friend as if she had been suddenly possessed by an alien. ‘Jeez, you consume me, girl.’

They bought three big plastic bags of plastic looking sweets in all shapes and colours; the cheaper version. The plastic bag reminded Kate of rubbish again. Nowadays, everything had to go in a plastic bag, or on a plastic tray and even then wrapped up in plastic. But it didn’t used to be like that, her mama had explained, that’s why they produced a lot less rubbish in her childhood days: they just took a little old bag to the rubbish bin, the only one in the long street, every now and then; tossed all together in there. Kate reflected on this while she savoured a gummy egg, her most favourite gummy sweet. 

Wouldn’t it be better to go back to that? To taking your own bottles and containers to the shops and buying things by weight from big tins and barrels? Didn’t that make more sense than having to recycle afterwards? But no; instead of that her mother had to be told off by ignorant costumers in the supermarket for not using a plastic glove every time she wanted to pick up a piece of fruit or veg. You’re been unhygienic and it’s affecting us all, one woman barked at Kate’s mother last time they went food shopping together. The one point six million square kilometre island of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean is affecting us all a lot more, her mama answered in a levelled tone, if a tad trembling. It would be better if we went home and washed the fruit, don’t you think? But the woman didn’t think; she just turned around and walked quickly away without further comment. The size of Mongolia! Kate’s mother shouted after her. The woman turned her head without stopping. ‘YOU are the Mongolian!’ was her answer. You see? Kate’s mother explained to her daughter. People resort to insult when they don’t have reasons. Kate was quite embarrassed by the whole scene and a bit pissed-off with her mama. Why did she bother explaining things to stupid people? And why did she consider ‘Mongolian’ an insult? That was racist! And her mother, God forbid, wasn’t a racist.

Too hell with it, Kate thought, popping a second gummy egg into her mouth. She decided she was going to stop reading the article on globalization. It was doing her head in, mostly because she wasn’t really understanding it. The problem was, what could she do then to learn about global-ization-warming? It was either kiddy/fake news type stuff or university level stuff. Anyway, she believed the solution resided in finding a way, in the very near future, to use energy more efficiently, so there was still economic growth, but without damaging life on Earth. Something she had already heard from parents, teachers, the Internet, the TV… But for real, like we meant it. No more little pieces being brought from California USA, for starters.

They were walking back home now. Good old Thomas suddenly veered to the left to help an old lady put glass jars and bottles inside the glass-recycling container; not an easy task for either children or elderly people since the holes where placed at the top of the rather tall container. Kate and Lisa went over to help too, only there weren’t enough holes to go round. Thomas had the front to explain to the old lady:

‘You’re supposed to take the tops of the jars off before putting them in the bin.’

‘Oh yes?’ the little old lady said with a grin. ‘And what do I do with the tops if I may ask? Eh? Throw them away with the plastic? Because you don’t want me to throw them in with the organic stuff, do you?’

‘Oh no, no!’ shouted Kate and Lisa in unison.

‘So? What are we supposed to do with the tops then?’

‘Good question,’ Thomas admitted looking at a jar the woman was holding, half full of mouldy beans.

‘And I’m not going to clean them either!’ the woman added, guessing the boy’s thoughts. ‘They tell us we have to wash the glass thoroughly first. They’ve got a nerve asking us to do that! They’re going to clean them themselves anyway, with very powerful machines they’ve got. And they’re going to make money with this glass!’

‘What?!’ shouted Kate. She didn’t know that. 

‘You thought recycling was an altruistic endeavour on both sides,’ the woman shook her head. ‘No dear: it’s a business on the other side. Just like everything else. Some people are making money out of this, pretending they are doing something ecological, and they’re not even doing it right. Never mind, you’ll find out when you grow up. Thank you for helping me!’ She smiled kindly. 

‘I would give you money for sweets but I see that you’ve already got some. Too many, in fact. Did you know sweets are very bad for you? Not just for your teeth, but your health in general. My husband is a diabetic and…’

They children said goodbye and walked away quickly. They didn’t want to be rude, but they didn’t want to hear any more bad news, fake or real. It was Friday and they were done with classes for a couple of days. And they wanted to enjoy they’re cheap, disgusting sweets to the fullest.

Nevertheless, the notion that the recycling of rubbish was yet another economic growth thing, just to make money, made Kate very unhappy. It was everywhere. Well, it was a global thing, wasn’t it? Money buck, money quid, money yen, money won. She wished money didn’t exist at all, anywhere, that there was some other way of getting things.

That night she didn’t read. She just did video-editing with pictures of her favourite Korean pop artists. She would find a way to change things when she grew up. Her generation would stop all the nonsense. That was if they survived global warming, pesticides, medicines, recreational drugs, GMO, palm oil, white sugar, wifi, chemtrails, water pollution, water shortages, terrorist attacks, drone attacks, forest fires, nuclear war, copyright laws and stress over the next seven years of school tests…

‘Who left the light on in the bathroom!’ papa shouted.

‘Sooorry!’ Kate shouted back. ‘That was me.’

‘Jesus, Kate! I thought you had been learning about global warming in school. WE HAVE TO SAVE ENERGY!’

Yeah, Kate, thought, like that is the problem, I little bulb in a bathroom, a fridge door open. Not industry and technological… what’s it… growth. Growth and more growth; some people are never done growing; THAT is the problem.

She didn’t want to get into a lengthy discussion with her father about the subject, though. She knew him well: he would find it interesting, and he would refuse to let go of her for at least an hour! She did realize, of course, what her father meant by ‘we have to save energy’: we have to do everything that it’s in our power despite how little of it we have. We being the rest of humanity outside the greedy bunch. Like Kate herself: She was she but she was part of we, too. For starters, she was going to stop buying so many gummy-plastic sweets, and when she did she would take her own plastic bag to the shop, even though that was as little a gesture as turning the bulb off or closing the fridge door. At the end of the day, everything counted and if more and more people did it, it could lead to something bigger, a bigger power. Perhaps enough power to counteract the dark forces of the greedy bunch. Certainly, doing nothing wasn’t the solution to anything.

It occurred to her it would be a good idea to talk about rubbish and recycling in the bio-geo class. The real reality of it, not the fake one. Perhaps she could start by writing a composition about it. Then she would read it in class. Teachers liked that: compositions and children reading them out loud. Easier said than done, though; if only she could shake off some of her crippling shyness… But what happens if all the people in the world who have something important to say, didn’t say anything because they are shy? Wouldn’t that be worse than not turning the light off? Wouldn’t it be more like turning it off, in fact, and wasting energy at the same time?

‘Are you listening to me, Kate?!’ She heard papa shouting. ‘WHAT ABOUT THE LIGHT!’

She definitely wasn’t going to talk to her father about her ideas and plans right now. Instead she said:

‘Well, papa, if you want to save energy, STOP SHOUTING!’

Vivi, May 1st 2022

©Viviana Guinarte, 2022-

Favourite Toys — Juguetes Favoritos

Most of my favourite toys are surrounded by a story. Sometimes the toy is the centre of the story, sometimes an accessory. But, in any case, it shines in there like a mysterious symbol of beauty and wisdom.

When there’s no particular story attached, the image of the toy floats freely around in the mental sea of my childhood. For example, I can think of three of my most enjoyed toys from around the time I was ten to twelve, which simply provided endless hours of stimulating fun, although now I wouldn’t know how to make them work if my life depended on it: the Hulla hoop, the Rubik’s cube and a board game called Mastermind —I lie: there is a little story involving one of my many cheap hulla hoops but it’s a bit gruesome and I’ll leave it, perhaps for some other time. Suffices to say that the story had a happy ending for all concerned.

Other examples of toys swimming in a sea of unencumbered happiness are: baby doll Pepin, the pedal car, the shoebox-sized tv set (it wasn’t a toy and it belonged to the whole family), the black Nancy doll, the multi-purpose plastic ball… This last one does elicit a couple of anecdotes but only poignant to those interested in 1980’s precursors to today’s challenge games, or Actor’s Studio’s-type drama exercises designed by children, or the peculiarities of boxer dogs, or all of the above, so I will leave it in the drawer keeping company to the killer hulla hoop.

The toys with the real stories are: 

— The teddy bear I got the day I was born, who could growl but lost its voice after spending a whole winter up an orange tree and now lives with the plush one-eyed cat I gave my mom on her third to last birthday (it had two eyes when I bought it. I don’t remember how it happened to lose one but my teddy had nothing to do with it; they were good friends from the get-go.)

— The first picture book, which flew with me on my first air flight when I was three and seemed to mysteriously disappear in mid-air. I only know I had it because I remember looking at its wondrous illustrations during that flight, and I only remember the flight because I remember looking at the book while I was on a plane, and it could only be that plane flying to Spain from Germany on 1968.

— The toy pram forcibly left behind after having played with it only for a few days (at least in my mind) because we had to leave the country and had to fit all our possessions in a car (a Citröen 2CV, I think, although it could’ve been a later, bigger model).

— The house made by mum out of a biscuit cardboard box when I was in bed with one of the childhood illnesses and which was destroyed by a hydra that took possession of mum for a few moments while I was not doing my homework.

— The first bike, white, small and pretty, which my grandpa bought for me to the dismay of my mother and aunt, who were counting on his pension to buy bare necessities.

— The second bike, a red BH my mum got me after an all straight A’s 4th grade, which got stolen but then retrieved when I was walking along the path by the almond tree fields. Some children and the woman with the burned-out face who I had seen many times in the neighbourhood but who I had never talked to were walking along the same path in the opposite direction. The burned woman was carrying my bike by the handlebar. She readily gave it to me when I started screaming it was mine. She assured me she didn’t know. 

— The third bike, another BMX. It also got stolen and it also got found, this time by my proactive detective work, of which I remember being very proud of at the time. Not so proud of making a little gitana girl cry because she was so frightened of her parents reaction at her older brother being found out for stealing a bike. I assured her I wasn’t going to tell the police.

I remember being naked on the beach. My mum wanted my brother and I to be naked on the beach —after all, it was Ibiza in the 70’s. The other children weren’t naked, not on that beach, but after the few initial minutes, I didn’t mind that much. I felt equally naked and equally dressed all the time, whether I had clothes on or not. I felt as if my skin was thick and deep blue, like the one of that Indian god’s. 

I would lie on the warm sand and observed the dung beetles do their work by the dunes for hours. Oh, their scent and their perfect beauty! All those toys I mentioned are treasures in the picture book of my life. What of the treasures that cannot be stolen, lost, spoiled or left behind because they weren’t yours to keep, simply there for you to enjoy and then let go? And aren’t all toys merely apparent possessions, simply there for us to enjoy and then let go?

Vivi, January 20th 2022

Juguetes favoritos

La mayoría de mis juguetes favoritos, ya que escoger uno sería un disgusto para los demás, están rodeados de una historia. A veces el juguete es el centro de la historia, a veces un accesorio. Pero, en cualquier caso, brilla ahí dentro como un misterioso símbolo de belleza y sabiduría.

Cuando no hay una historia concreta, la imagen del juguete flota libremente en el mar mental de mi infancia. Por ejemplo, se me ocurren tres de los juguetes que más me gustaron entre los diez y los doce años, y que simplemente me proporcionaban interminables horas de diversión estimulante, aunque ahora no sabría hacerlos funcionar ni aunque me fuera la vida en ello: el Hulla hoop, el cubo de Rubik y un juego de mesa llamado Mastermind —miento: hay una pequeña historia relacionada con uno de mis muchos Hulla hoops baratos, pero es un poco truculenta y la dejaré, quizá, para otra ocasión. Baste decir que la historia tuvo un final feliz para todos los implicados.

Otros ejemplos de juguetes que nadan en un mar de felicidad sin obstáculos son: el muñeco Pepín, el coche de pedales, el televisor del tamaño de una caja de zapatos (no era un juguete y pertenecía a toda la familia), la muñeca Nancy negra, la pelota de plástico multiusos… Esta última sí que suscita un par de anécdotas, pero sólo conmovedoras para quienes se interesen por los precursores ochenteros de los actuales juegos de reto, o por los ejercicios teatrales tipo Actor’s Studio diseñados por niños, o por las peculiaridades de los perros bóxer, o por todo lo anterior, así que lo dejaré en el cajón haciendo compañía al hulla hoop asesino.

Los juguetes con verdaderas historias son: 

– El oso de peluche que me regalaron el día que nací, que podía gruñir pero que perdió la voz después de pasar todo un invierno subido a un naranjo y que ahora vive con el gato de peluche tuerto que le regalé a mi madre en su antepenúltimo cumpleaños (tenía dos ojos cuando lo compré. No recuerdo cómo fue que perdió uno, pero mi oso de peluche no tuvo nada que ver; fueron buenos amigos desde el principio).

– El primer libro ilustrado, que viajó conmigo en mi primer vuelo en avión cuando tenía tres años y que al parecer desapareció misteriosamente en el aire. Sólo sé que lo tenía porque recuerdo haber mirado sus maravillosas ilustraciones durante ese vuelo, y sólo recuerdo el vuelo porque recuerdo haber mirado el libro mientras iba en un avión, y sólo podía ser ese avión en el que volaba a España desde Alemania en 1968.

– El cochecito de bebé de juguete, abandonado a la fuerza después de haber jugado con él sólo unos días (al menos en mi mente) porque teníamos que salir del país y debían cabernos todas nuestras pertenencias en un coche (un Citröen 2CV, creo, aunque podría haber sido un modelo posterior más grande).

– La casa hecha por mamá con una caja de cartón de galletas cuando yo estaba en cama con una de las enfermedades de la infancia y que fue destruida por una hidra que se apoderó de mi madre durante unos momentos mientras yo no hacía los deberes.

– La primera bicicleta, blanca, pequeña y bonita, que me compró mi abuelo para consternación de mi madre y mi tía, que contaban con su pensión para comprar lo más necesario. (Esta bicicleta se menciona en otra historia llamada Gracia, o Grace).

– La segunda bicicleta, una BH roja que me regaló mi madre después de haber sacado todo sobresaliente en 4º de primaria, que me robaron pero que luego recuperé cuando paseaba por el camino junto a los campos de almendros. Unos niños y la mujer con la cara quemada, que había visto muchas veces en el barrio pero con la que nunca había hablado, iban por el mismo camino en dirección contraria. La mujer quemada llevaba mi bicicleta por el manillar. Me la dio de buena gana cuando empecé a gritar que era mía. Me aseguró que no lo sabía. 

– La tercera bicicleta, otra bicicross. También me la robaron y también la encontré, esta vez gracias a mi proactiva labor detectivesca, de la que recuerdo estar muy orgullosa en aquel momento. No tan orgullosa de haber hecho llorar a una niña gitana porque estaba muy asustada por la posible reacción de sus padres al ser descubierto su hermano mayor por robar una bicicleta. Le aseguré que no iba a decírselo a la policía.

Recuerdo estar desnuda en la playa. Mi madre quería que mi hermano y yo estuviéramos desnudos en la playa; después de todo, era Ibiza en los años 70. Los otros niños no estaban desnudos, no en esa playa, pero después de los pocos minutos iniciales, no me importó mucho. Me sentía igualmente desnuda y vestida a la vez todo el tiempo, tuviera o no ropa puesta. Sentía como si mi piel fuera gruesa y de un azul intenso, como la de aquel dios indio. 

Me tumbaba en la cálida arena y observaba a los escarabajos peloteros hacer su trabajo junto a las dunas durante horas. ¡Oh, su olor y su perfecta belleza! Todos esos juguetes que he mencionado son tesoros en el libro de imágenes de mi vida. ¿Y qué hay de los tesoros que no se pueden robar, perder, estropear o dejar atrás porque no eran tuyos para conservarlos, simplemente estaban ahí para que los disfrutaras y luego los dejaras ir? ¿Y no son todos los juguetes meras posesiones aparentes, simplemente para que los disfrutemos y luego los dejemos ir?

Vivi, 20 enero 2022

©Viviana Guinarte

What is a road trip you would love to take? —¿Qué “viaje por carretera” te gustaría hacer?

I’m not one to dwell in the past. I don’t even think of it much. I like to live in the present. I read that it’s what you’re supposed to do: live in the present. All spiritual leaders say: be present. 

Usually, the past catches up with me at unsuspected moments. It sort of takes me by storm and then leaves, like gusts of wind that come and go. Often the content of these sudden memories surprises me, too. I’m surprised at how many things I’ve done, how many things I’ve lived, and felt, how many people I’ve met, and unmet.

Perhaps thinking of the past, of one’s past, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It would depend on how you think about that past. With what purpose. If you think about it as if it is something that it’s set in stone, you’re in trouble. It’s not.

When I think of my past, I’m, as I said, surprised. Surprised at how every time I look at it, it looks slightly different. The same situations, the same people, even the feelings I thought I felt, often shift, ever so little, giving me the impression that the past is not past at all, and certainly not dead, but very much alive. The first time I sensed this, I became aware of the fact that by not thinking of my past I wasn’t revising my notion of it. And in not doing this, my present was being affected by my past by not being aware of it and of its shifting nature. My present was stuck in my past as I had decided it was a long time ago.

When I was a small child of about 8, I wanted to travel to the land of Korda’s The Thief of Bagdad, which wasn’t there anymore. When I was around 12, I wanted to go to the land of the tv series The Water Margin; that land was China during the Sung Dynasty. Also gone, of course. 

I would like to take the most dangerous, hazardous and magical of all road trips: that to my past. The whole road, from now to the very beginning.

Vivi, January 17th 2022

©Viviana Guinarte

¿Qué “viaje por carretera” te gustaría hacer?

No soy de las que viven en el pasado. Ni siquiera pienso mucho en él. Me gusta vivir el presente. He leído que es lo que hay que hacer: vivir en el presente. Todos los líderes espirituales dicen: estar presente. 

Normalmente, el pasado me alcanza en momentos insospechados. Me toma por sorpresa y luego se va, como ráfagas de viento que vienen y van. A menudo, el contenido de estos recuerdos repentinos también me sorprende. Me sorprende la cantidad de cosas que he hecho, la cantidad de cosas que he vivido y sentido, la cantidad de personas que he conocido y no he conocido.

Quizá pensar en el pasado, en el propio pasado, no sea necesariamente algo malo. Dependería de cómo se piense en ese pasado. Con qué propósito. Si pensamos en él como si fuera algo que está grabado en piedra, tenemos problemas. No lo está.

Cuando pienso en mi pasado, como dije, me sorprendo. Me sorprende que cada vez que lo miro, parece ligeramente diferente. Las mismas situaciones, las mismas personas, incluso los sentimientos que creía sentir, cambian a menudo, aunque sea un poco, dándome la impresión de que el pasado no es pasado en absoluto, y ciertamente no está muerto, sino muy vivo. La primera vez que percibí esto, me di cuenta de que al no pensar en mi pasado no estaba revisando mi noción del mismo. Y al no hacerlo, mi presente estaba siendo afectado por mi pasado al no ser consciente de él y de su naturaleza cambiante. Mi presente estaba atascado en mi pasado tal y como yo había decidido que fuera hace mucho tiempo.

Cuando era un niño pequeño de unos 8 años, quería viajar a la tierra de El ladrón de Bagdad de Korda, que ya no estaba allí. Cuando tenía unos 12 años, quería ir a la tierra de la serie de televisión La Frontera Azul; esa tierra era China durante la dinastía Sung. También desapareció, por supuesto. 

Me gustaría hacer el más peligroso, arriesgado y mágico de los viajes por carretera: el de mi pasado. Todo el camino, desde ahora hasta el principio.

Vivi, 17 enero 2022

©Viviana Guinarte

Juguete favorito

He sido afortunada con eso de los juguetes. He disfrutado de muchos, de los míos y de los de mis hermanos. No sé muy bien si he tenido juegos favoritos o momentos favoritos en los que jugaba con un montón de cosas que no necesariamente eran juguetes.

Mis juguetes favoritos… creo que fueron aquellos con los que pasaba horas y horas las mañanas de los sábados y domingos de mi infancia. Pero no consigo decidirme por uno solo, ¡imposible! Hay mil, entre ellos una muñeca especial que sale en alguna de mis fotos antiguas, mi primer peluche que aún conservo con todas sus calvas, el cine de juguete que fue todo un descubrimiento, el juego de construcciones de mi hermano.  

¿Puedo incluir las pinturas en esa lista? Nos pasábamos las horas cantando y oyendo cuentos con el tocadiscos, mientras manchábamos y manchábamos hojas de papel y, eventualmente, la sufrida moqueta azul gris que fue testigo de toda mi infancia ya estuviéramos sentados, tumbados, apoyados de lado. Mis recuerdos también giran alrededor de dos viejos puffs de fibra trenzada y piel de vaca en la parte de arriba. Los utilizábamos para rodar sobre ellos pero nunca fueron un verdadero asiento. 

El momento más temido y pesado: recogerlo todo en un gran cajón forrado de aironfix de “terciopelo” verde y adornado con remaches de metal. Un poco antes de eso, y vacío el cajón, también nos metíamos dentro en innumerables ocasiones convirtiéndolo en un barco, no sé si pirata o no. Dentro de casa esos fueron nuestros “trastos.” 

Cuando hacía bueno salíamos al Retiro cargados de bicis, triciclos, patines, cubos y palas pero sobre todo ropa para rebozarnos bien en la tierra. Empocilgados, que decía mi padre, y que nosotros siempre entendimos como hasta arriba de porquería. El mejor regalo de un niño: disfrutar sin tener que preocuparte de las manchas, la ropa y los zapatos. Venir como si lo hicieras de la guerra pero con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja. Insuperable. 

No puedo reducir mi lista a un solo juguete, han sido tantos que es muy difícil hasta hacer una pequeña selección, pero creo que los juguetes en nuestra casa han sido muy disfrutados, muy compartidos y también sacados de su uso habitual en numerosas ocasiones. Hemos exprimido todos y cada uno de los que llegaron a casa fueran para nosotros o para otro de los hermanos. Reciclados, heredados, intercambiados, casi todos muy especiales por eso me resisto a decir uno. Me quedo con los momentos vividos, con esos recuerdos y, como niño glotón, con todos los juguetes que poblaron mi infancia.

Petu, 8 enero 2022

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The Foreigner

Polarity, Youtube

The new girl in the class, she speaks with a South-American accent. She’s a foreigner, she’s eleven just like the rest of us. Straight light brown hair, large green eyes, olive skin, a serious expression. She seems a little aloof, but it’s just her seriousness, which perhaps stems from living here after travelling from a country on the other side of the ocean. I like her. I was born abroad too, although I’m supposed to be a Spaniard.

The class is standing in the middle of the classroom, where the tables have been pushed together, following instructions given by the teacher. One of those tables somehow gets toppled and it falls edge first on my foot. The pain shoots through me and I let out a cry.

What happened! the teacher exclaims. Before I can think through the pain, it comes out of my mouth: She did it! I rise my arm to point at her. The foreigner. The look of surprise on her face shocks me. I’m shocked at myself too. It’s not true! she shouts, her voice full of outraged pain. I immediately retract myself: It wasn’t her, I say, it was an accident.

Where did that come from? I’ve asked myself through the years. To be unkind, wrongfully accusatory… Me.

I see the girl’s face. I know now that, at that precise moment, I needed to blame someone for my pain and it couldn’t be anyone other than a foreigner —like me.

Vivi, 2021

©Viviana Guinarte 2021